The Lycophyta is a group of spore-bearing, vascular plants with a long evolutionary history reaching well back into the Paleozoic Era. However, the living members of this group are limited to 5 genera, only one of which (Lycopodium) has thus far been identified in southwest Virginia. Living members of this group are small in stature and characterized by possessing small leaves (microphylls) some of which bear sporangia singly on their upper surfaces. Secondary xylem development is absent to minimal in the living forms, but was well developed in many of the extinct arborescent members. Although only one living genus has been found so far in the area, we are fortunate in that extinct members of this group are present and can be found commonly in southwest Virginia, in the form of fossils.
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